Book Plunge: Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught Part 6

Should you watch what you say? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Well it looks like David Madison might have finally found something!

36 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Now why would we wish Jesus hadn’t have taught this? Because Madison is right in his next point.

This is, in fact, a terrifying warning: God is monitoring every word you utter and plans to get even on judgment day. I really do wonder how many Christians take this seriously. Do you live in constant terror of saying the wrong thing, with such horrible consequences?

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 43). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

I wouldn’t phrase it this way, but yes, we should be watching what we say. We all know that the best way to tell someone is not by their actions, but by their reactions, when they don’t have time to think out what they are going to say. Anyone can plan out a speech and look good, but to be a person of high character when you are caught off guard is something different.

So would it be easier on us if Jesus hadn’t taught this? Yes. Should we take it seriously? Yes. Does not liking it mean that it is wrong? No. This is something atheists like Madison seem to always go by. It’s an idea of “I don’t like it, therefore it’s wrong.”

Then he quotes this passage:

I say to you, “Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34-37, NRSV)

And says about it:

One positive way to interpret this text could be, “Say what you mean and mean what you say. Just tell the truth all the time.” But, come on, isn’t the rest of this teaching worth a big yawn? Especially from those who place their hands on the Bible to swear, “So help me God.” This is worthless advice anchored to ancient cosmology that views heaven as a throne and the earth as a footstool. And so much trouble has been caused by giving special status to Jerusalem.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 45). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Gotta love the, “It’s boring, therefore false” implication. It would make a lot of church sermons and school lectures easier to deal with. Unfortunately, this is not how hard scholarship works.

Craig Keener says about this passage that:

The point of this passage is integrity. Letting one’s “yes” function as a “yes” and “no” as a “no” seems to employ ancient Jewish figures of speech simply to demand that one be as good as one’s word, that one keep one’s word. Jesus observes that since God witnesses every word one says anyway, one should be able to tell the truth without having to call God to witness by a formal oath (cf. Harrington 1982: 30; Jeremias 1971: 220; Manson 1979: 158–59).
Jesus addresses a popular abuse of oaths in his day. To protect the sanctity of the divine name against inadvertent oath-breaking, common Jewish practice introduced kinnuyim, surrogate objects by which to swear (Vermes 1993: 34–35). Some people apparently thought it harmless to deceive if they swore oaths by something like their right hand (t. Ned. 1:1; cf. its use in agreements, e.g., Jos. War 2.451). Others took all oaths more seriously, but specifically warned against using God’s name lest if one break the oath one profane God’s name (Philo Spec. 2.4–5; cf. 1 Enoch 69:13–16; Pesiq. R. 22:6); sometimes vows could not be fulfilled (m. Ned. 3:1). Jewish teachers had to arbitrate which oaths were actually binding as allusions to God’s name (m. Shebu. 4:13; cf. CD 15.1–5; Smith 1951: 136). The further removed the oath was from the actual name of God, the less danger they faced for violating it (Schiffman 1983: 137–38; Sanders 1990: 53–54). Some later teachers had to insist that all roundabout substitutes for vows were equivalent to vows (m. Ned. 1:1; Nazir 1:1). Sages undoubtedly had to evaluate vows’ validity frequently because they had acquired the role of canceling bad vows (e.g., t. Pisha 2:16), extending an Old Testament privilege accorded male guardians of unattached women (Num 30:3–15).
Thus people swore by heaven and earth (many cite Philo Spec. 2.5; m. Shebu. 4:13), Jerusalem (many cite m. Ned. 1:3; others in Lachs 1987: 102), one’s head (m. Sanh. 3:2), God’s throne (Apoc. Mos. 19.2) and the temple service (Sifre Deut. 1.3.2). Jesus teaches that all oaths invoke God’s witness equally. Just as heaven, earth (Is 66:1–2), and Jerusalem (Ps 48:2; Mt 4:5; 27:53) belong to God (5:34–35), so do the hairs on one’s head (5:36; cf. 10:30); one has no genuine control over their aging (cf. 6:27; Pub. Syr. 215). (The assumption would have been that hair was black and turned white with age—Soph. Antig. 1092–93; Phaedrus 2.2.9–10; Babrius 22.2–3. Only deities and magicians could change colors—cf. Ovid Metam. 11.314.) All oaths implicitly call God to witness because everything that exists was made by him. This implies that for Jesus God was actively involved in all aspects of life; no part of life except sin was purely secular.

Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 194–195.

In other words, this is about integrity and not making flippant oaths. It is not a violation to go into a courtroom and make an oath when you are required to do so. Too often, the people you are interacting with there do not know you and do not know a reputation that you have.

In the end, Madison says that:

The requirement that we manage our words perfectly should be deeply troubling to any follower of Jesus.

Madison, David. Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (p. 48). Insighting Growth Publications. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes it should be. This brings to mind a saying of Chesterton. Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It’s been found difficult and left untried.

Perhaps we should ask why Madison doesn’t like this teaching. What are the words he would not want to be judged on?

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Spiritual Deception in the Highest 19.3

How do we wrap up the wording of the KJV section? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Again, I am leaving a lot of stuff out that is tedious as it is just doing things like counting the number of syllables. This chapter ends with some odds and ends and we’re going to go ahead and get to those. As always, the source material can be found here.

Not only does the King James use simpler words, but it also uses a shorter vocabulary of ‘different’ words. In his book “The Majority Text”, Theodore Letis points out:

“The AV contains only about six thousand words as compared to Shakespeare’s fifteen to twenty thousand and Milton’s thirteen thousand …”

Okay. And? Even if I grant this as true, what follows from this? What is asked is not how many different words are used but how easy those words are to understand. There are times fewer words are better and there are times more words are better. It depends on the situation. For instance, we don’t want to have endless vocabulary lists to learn to say something, but meanwhile, Greek has four different words for love and we only have one to contain everything.

What about the King James’ words we don’t recognize? G.A. Riplinger responds to this question:

“The … words in the KJV, which are unfamiliar, at first glance, to dictionary shy Americans are actually simpler and more accurate than their new substitutes. A ‘stomacher’ for example (Isa. 3:24) is NOT a belt, as new versions indicate, but a chest ornament. (It seems the only ‘simpler’ words in new versions are incorrect or from a corrupt Greek text.) New versions not only do not improve the KJV’s ‘sackbut’ (Daniel 3:7), calling it a ‘trigon’, but in the same sentence change the KJV’s simple ‘harp’ to a ‘zither’

This seems like a bizarre argument. How do I know that a stomacher is a chest ornament? I went to Blue Letter Bible to look up the verse and found that it says it’s a robe. Maybe it’s right. Maybe it’s a belt. Since this is the only place the word shows up in Scripture, it’s harder to tell.

It’s hard to understand how replacing one difficult term, a sackbut, with another difficult term, a trigon, is an argument. It amounts to “Well they do it to!” This doesn’t deal with the wording of the KJV. As for harp, the word is best translated as a lyre or zither.

But supposedly Riplinger has dealt with the whole argument by citing two verses. Well done.

A second claim is that: ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’, and ‘thine’ are out of date. The ‘pitch’ is that these words were spoken in 1611, are archaic, and need to be eliminated.

Let’s examine this claim. In his book ‘The King James Version Defended’, Edward F. Hills gives us some interesting insight into these words. On page 218, he says:

“… the English of the King James Version is not the English of the 17th century … It is Biblical English, which was not used on ordinary occasions even by the translators who produced the King James Version. As H. Wheeler Robinson (1940) pointed out, one need only compare the preface written by the translators with the text of their translation to feel the difference in style … The King James Version … owes its merit, not to 17th century English – which was very different – but to its faithful translation of the original. Its style is that of the Hebrew and the New Testament Greek. Even in their use of thee and thou the translators were not following 17th century English usage but biblical usage, for at the time these translators were doing their work these singular forms had already been replaced by the plural you in polite conversation” [S12P218].

In his book ‘The Old Is Better’, Alfred E. Levell also comments on the need for thee’s and thou’s. On page 31, he says:

“Why did the AV translators not adopt the up to date English of their time? For one reason … accuracy of translation! Whenever the Hebrew and Greek texts use the singular of the pronoun, so does the AV; and whenever those texts use the plural, so does the AV … There is a distinct loss of accuracy in translation if ‘You’ is used for singular as well as the plural: it becomes an ambiguous word … Thus in Luke 22:31-32 the Lord says to Peter “Satan hath desired to have you, to sift you as wheat,” “you” here referring to Peter and the other disciples; “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not,” “thee” and “thy” referring to Peter only. Such shades in meaning are completely lost when ‘you’ is used throughout” [S13P31].

The words: ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’ are clearly needed. The Holy Spirit picked these words for a reason: It is to distinguish the ‘singular you’ from the ‘plural you’ for the purpose of clarity. Praise God!

I can easily grant this shows a lack in our language today. At the same time, that doesn’t mean we still speak in thee and thou today. (Gotta love the statement that this is what the Holy Spirit chose, something I am sure the KJV translators would not want said.) It’s one reason in my recent Greek classes we even talked about how in the South we differ between you and y’all.

Objective, analytical, data shows new versions are NOT EASIER to read, they are HARDER. Also, new versions are wordier, have more syllables per word, and use harder words.

The words God chose, for His Traditional Majority Text, are simpler. And, like the use of ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’ and ‘thine’; each word was chosen for a reason. We may or may not understand each word, but it is there for a purpose; just like you and I are here for a purpose.

Lately; Bible publishers are trying to tell Christians the King James Bible is ‘hard to understand’. Their ‘claim’ is that we need to buy a ‘new version’.

Well, if the King James Bible is ‘hard to understand’, then this is a very, very, RECENT phenomenon. Our grandparents were able to read the King James!

And, how would Bible publishers explain this supposed problem with King James ‘readability’ when we are actually MORE EDUCATED than our grandparents?

No; their claim does not make sense. Something else is wrong.

And meanwhile, our great-great-great grandparents down the line were able to read Elizabethan English. Our older ancestors were able to read languages like Greek and Latin and Hebrew. People can read different things at different times due to the changes in language.

The truth is that the King James Bible is NOT the problem.

“The real gap is one of distance between God and man, not a lapse between us and Father Time … The spiritual chasm is so vast that even those close to Jesus could not understand him. He was NOT speaking archaic Aramaic to Mary and Joseph yet, “they understood NOT the saying which he spake unto them”. Obsolete words were NOT the obstacle when he asked Peter, “Are ye also yet WITHOUT understanding?” [S3P635].

Something to think about.

And many of the great heroes in the Bible didn’t understand, including Mary and Joseph, the apostles, and others in the Old Testament. Are we to assume that all of these figures didn’t understand because they were obstinate in sin?

I am not against the KJV if one prefers it and wants to use it. I am against saying it is the only one you should use and all others are wicked translations.

But we’ll go on next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


I Was Not Assigned

What is at stake with our words? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Last week, there was an announcement made at the chapel service here at NOBTS about free flu shots being given out for students. All we had to do was go to the student center and there would be some nurses there ready to give us our shots. Being one without health insurance now (Financial realities of being a seminary student), I decided to go and get one.

Now this was a Christian hospital organization that was giving out the shots and so they had to ask me several questions, which I understand. I get the legal requirements. I don’t blame them and I realize the sad reality of what many businesses are going through, but as an individual, I did take a firm stand.

So in the middle of the usual questions that I expect, I get the one of “What is your gender identity?” I consider this to really be a nonsense question. Identity has no purpose here. How I feel about myself does not affect what I am at all. I can feel like I’m a cat and it’s not going to change I’m a human. For a more realistic example, as one going through a divorce, I can feel numerous negative things many times. Those things are not true. Many Christians can struggle with feeling God doesn’t love them. Doesn’t make it true. The reason many people commit suicide is often connected with a negative feeling about them or their future that just isn’t true.

I am a man. That is it. I can take a look at my body and the way that I came out and realize that yes, I am a man.

My next question I was asked was “Were you assigned that at birth?”

At this I think my eyes glare, not in anger at the nurses. They have to do their job. It’s in anger that this question is on here. I gave a direct answer. “No. I was born a man.” I realize we could say I was born a boy who grew into a man, but the sex that I was born as was not something that was just decided. It was known when I was born.

I also realize some people can bring up people who are intersex, but intersex and transgender are two very different things. One is a very physical condition and we have never sought to change our laws and society based on this condition. The other, transgenderism, is a psychological delusion and we are changing our society and laws to play along and real people are being the victims.

Friends. This is a hill we cannot budge any on. This is about a battle for reality itself. I consider the far-left movement in our society to be in a war against reality and trying to eliminate any idea of male and female. It’s as if we are being pushed into a political monism.

The biggest aspect of this battle to watch is our words. I will use longer and clunkier terminology to avoid granting any grounds to the other side. I will not speak of a “same-sex marriage.” A marriage by definition is the unity of a man and a woman. No. Something like polygamy doesn’t change this, though it is wrong, as it is just one man with several women, but the man-woman aspect is there. The same would be for one woman with many men.

When you say “same-sex marriage” you are speaking of a contradiction. You are speaking of a man-woman unit that is not man-woman. If we also make the definition of marriage fluid, we can make it to mean anything and then it means nothing. Why limit it to two people? Why make it consensual? Why make it lifelong? The word marriage has to mean something specific.

I prefer to not even speak of a homosexual anymore. It makes homosexual more often an aspect of the person’s identity and surely that won’t change. It becomes something innate. I will easily instead speak of a person with same-sex attraction. What is central here is that this is a person.

We must absolutely watch people who want to control our words and tell us there are things we cannot say. We have seen part of this when any monitoring is done of questions about vaccines or the 2020 election. Even if you think both of those are crazy conspiracy theories, it would be better to have them talked about and the ideas discussed. Shutting down discussion on any topic convinces more often people who think there is a cover-up.

Keep in mind that in 1984, the goal of the editing of the language was not to come up with new words. It was to eliminate as many words as possible. Control the words people say and you can control the ideas that they are allowed to think about.

The language war is essential.

No. I was not assigned male at birth. I was born that way. I could jack up my body with as many hormones as doctors say and mutilate it with surgical procedures, and I will look like I am playing a part, but it won’t change reality. Barring the return of Jesus Christ, I will die a male. Nothing will change that.

There is too much at stake. Whenever you encounter language that is meant to shape what you think, do not give an inch to it. If you have to use long and clunkier phrases, that’s fine. I would rather do that and be minorly inconvenienced than give in to fake reality and be majorly inconvenienced.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)